The user interface is an integral part of any digital product. When an interface is well designed, users don t notice it – it s flawless. Problems begin when the interface is poorly designed and users are unable to complete the desired tasks.
To maximize the chances of success, most designers follow three well-known interface design principles:
I follow the fundamental principles of design, but have found that the best way to learn is to look at examples of bad design and compare them to good design. Why? Because you will see the mistakes to avoid and you will be able to design the best solution.
“Good design, when done well, becomes invisible. We only notice it when something is badly done. “
Don t get me wrong, finding bugs in interface design isn t the most scientific method, but it worked for me. These common mistakes have led me to create ten principles that shape my interface design strategy. Ten principleswhich I would like to share with you in this article.
- Simplify your interface design
- Don t turn your problems into user problems
- Give users control over the interface
- Reduce cognitive load
- Clarity is more important than complexity
- Be human
- The devil is in the details
- Make the interfaces consistent
- Prevent mistakes
- Disclose information gradually
Let s take a closer look at each design principle …
1. Simplify your interface design
Whether you want to improve usability or increase conversions, the most important thing a designer can focus on is simplifying the interface design. Users expectations are higher than ever and they do not tolerate stressful situations. I see so many companies getting hung up on the latest trends even though they don t have the right foundation. Keep the interface simple so users don t go to your competitors.
2. Don t turn your problems into user problems
Interface design can be very subjective, especially when it comes to UI designers and web developers. Conflicting priorities and deadlines often lead them to solve their own problems rather than focus on improving the user experience.
A typical example of this problem is formatting form fields. There are many e-commerce sites that require users to enter phone numbers or zip codes in a specific way when filling out shipping details.
In my experience, these kinds of problems often arise because reformatting the information to put into the database requires effort on the part of the developer, and it seems “easier” to force the user to do so, thereby complicating the user experience.
3. Give users control over the interface
A well-designed interface gives users a sense of control – control provides a sense of comfort. By giving users control over the interface, you enable them to learn quickly and gain a sense of power.
Thoughtless design robs comfort, forcing users to engage in unplanned interactions and get frustrating results. Take my advice and make the interface obvious – believe me, what is obvious to you may not be obvious to someone else.
4. Reduce cognitive load
Cognitive load is the amount of mental processing power required to use a product. If the user receives too much information, their productivity will suffer – the user will miss important details, be overwhelmed, or even refuse to complete the task.
The attention span of users is getting shorter and expectations are growing. It is important to improve usability and legibility through good visual organization. There are many UI guidelines, from fragmentation of content to optimizing response time, to reduce cognitive load.
In short, avoid displaying too much information on the screen at once – old links, irrelevant images, meaningless text. Instead, apply general principles of organizing your content, such as grouping related items, bulleted lists, clear headings, and obvious calls to action — it’s better not to tire users or make your product more difficult to use.
Related article: Minimize cognitive load to improve usability
5. Clarity is more important than complexity
More recently, I ve noticed how many sites try to be smart when promoting their brand through tone of voice. When it comes to interface design, I am concerned about sites trying to be smart or trendy.
Don t get me wrong, some companies do this exceptionally well, however, I m not a huge fan of fast-paced fashion.
Marketing teams love to be smart and try to “interact” with users by applying emotionally charged text. It becomes unclear what exactly they are selling – the emphasis on simplicity of content is often cited as one of the fundamental design principles. Reduce cognitive load
“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to precisely match the customer s needs without fuss or worry. This is followed by simplicity and elegance that form products that are a pleasure to own and use. “
6. Be human
It may sound crazy, but I see more and more people turning into robots. As UX designers, we want users to be error-free, and one of the fundamental areas of websites is content. For some unknown reason, when teams sit down to draft a site or design an interface, they are no longer human.
Do not use incomprehensible language or professional terminology. Always write in non-professional language – it will not offend professionals and will certainly help newbies understand your product or service.
“On average, users can read no more than 28% of the words on a web page, most often 20%”
Above is a great example – remove jargon and complex words, because only a few people know what an IP address is. This text could be written in several ways to help users understand the error.
7. The devil is in the details
Designers are often perfectionists, and that s part of the UI design problem – it s easy to make something “look good”, but that doesn t always translate to a perfect user experience.
Small interface glitches are nothing in the overall design of a web system, but these small issues can quickly accumulate, creating a very frustrating experience.
“Poor interface design can scare customers away”
Let s take a banking app as an example – the user is likely to interact with it on a daily basis, and these small annoyances will soon turn into a big problem. It might even force the user to go to a competitor.
8. Make the interfaces serial
Consistency is one of the most important principles of interface design. Why? Because it supports usability and learnability.
Without consistency, the site will quickly turn into a mess. I ve seen so many companies introduce new features without taking into account existing design systems or style guides – without a consistent design, a site will quickly become extremely confusing.
It all comes down to the famous saying – don t reinvent the wheel. Consistency should help users interact with different applications. Users should not be expected to have to learn new skills every time they open an app.
9. Preventing errors
The designer is constantly improving the user flow, developing new or improving existing features, and optimizing the user experience. The website is constantly under development, and therefore it is very likely that sometimes the user may not get the desired response – good interface design must be able to adapt to the unexpected.
I see too many confusing error messages that blame users or don t explain what the error is. Human tone and language will help users better understand the situation and improve user experience afterwards.
10. Gradually disclose information
When it comes to interface design, I am concerned about sites trying to show everything at once. Show only what is needed on each screen.
There is still a misconception that every user will land on the home page of a site – marketing, social media, and people share links that can lead a user to any page on your site. The ideal interface defers final decisions to subsequent screens by progressively disclosing information.
When designing an interface, remember that if people are making a decision, show enough information to allow them to make a choice, and then display additional information on the next screen.
This list covers some of the main challenges I face when designing interfaces on a daily basis and has motivated me to form a solid design strategy. Too many organizations focus on the latest trends and add new features (simply because) when they don t have the basics yet.
The purpose of interface design is to enable the user to easily explore the interface without fear of negative consequences. Websites are constantly evolving and users increasingly understand how interfaces should work. Over time, interfaces will become more intuitive, predictable, and human! The above list will remain a guiding principle throughout the web adaptation and will serve you well in your next projects.